I’ve been thinking about a make-over for quite a while now. My hair is longer than it’s been in years, and my ends are in need of a trimming. Plus, I’m feeling the old itch to dye my hair. Maybe back to a red-brown color. And bangs. I miss bangs.
Truth told, it’s not just my hair that I want to make over. It’s my body, too. Since having Riley, the contours of my body have been doing all kinds of changing, which is obvious and expected, but some aspects of the change, i.e., smaller boobs and a disappearing ass?!, have thrown me for a loop. I’ve always had the curves of a pin-up model – 36DD, trim stomach, plump butt – so being stick-skinny is messing with my self-image. Is it the tropical heat? The necessary hydration? The fact that I’m carrying Riley a lot? What else explains why my arms are getting hella built while the rest of me is withering away?
I’ve decided to take advantage of my lax schedule by stuffing my face. It’s a conscious decision, and my hope is that I gain weight in the desired places. I’m doing a bunch of exercises that are supposed to tone specific parts of the body and build other particular parts, and I’m hoping they work. This might sound stupid, and it might just give me a huge gut, but that’s a chance I’m willing to take. While I love that I have muscle definition and strength, I miss being able to fill a fitted cap with one boob.
I know, I know: cry you a river, I’m Jessica Alba instead of Jessica Rabbit. But all of this attention on my looks is getting me wondering: where does this preoccupation come from? Is it narcissism, pure and simple? Is it a competitive streak? Super high standards? Or have I simply fallen prey to the aesthetic ideal played out by the media? I make no bones about it: I want to be hot, and what I consider hot is the claiming of the best of many (supposed) binaries: being muscular and curvy, natural and made-up, tough and sweet, smart and goofy, domestic and professional, maternal and sexy, etc. I want to straddle the line between my boyfriend’s thighs and abs while commanding his respect and squeezing him dry, and I want people to look at me and know that I’ve got it like that.
The point I’m pondering is on the topic of identity. Not just who I was, but who I am, who I want to be, and who I want you to think I am. [NOTE: I’m pretty sure the last three are the same person. Go me!]
Theresa linked to this awesome article about feminism, and it got me thinking about the way I perceive myself. There are many times when I catch myself whirling around the ring of a rabbit hole as I search for an elusive grain of truth. I meet people and see art and visit places, and when I’m inevitably inspired by how awesome they are, I can’t help but wonder how they got that way. How did their childhood affect them? Did their guardian’s style of parenting make a big impact on the way they perceive the world? Which circumstances and people lit their path? I always feel the need to study and understand, to communicate and empathize, and to establish some kind of knowing. It’s one of the reasons I’m a nerd who has always wanted to befriend an architect: I want to know things, and architects pay attention to how things are made.
Now, feminism is something I strongly identify with. Even though I don’t agree with some of its schools and ideas, I respect and value of all of its parts and off-shoots, and I understand that they are all necessary to breathe life into an ideal which speaks to me: equality. But what does equality between the sexes look like? It’s never existed, and I wonder if we would even recognize it if it gave us the most mind-blowing orgasm we’ve ever had. (Yes, collectively. Because in a world of sexual equality, mass spontaneous orgasm would be possible.)
I read the article, and questions came to mind, fueling my distinct brand of curiosity, like: If a woman acts in a way that’s happened to be deemed socially acceptable and attractive, is she doing her own thing, or being unknowingly pimped by the system? What role does the history of sexism play in our present and our future? Must our personal choices always be seen through those stocking-clad lenses? Are our personal choices affected at all? And how can anyone ever really know, anyway?
While even the most learned and scholarly amongst us can conjecture their hearts out, I have a feeling that all anyone would uncover are platitudes and cliched sentiments. We’re human, and as such, we absorb information. Data gets into us, and we do our best to sort and analyze every tidbit of intel that we must process. There’s no way to really know how or when or why or what causes some ideas to get stored, and others to go in one eye/ear/nostril, and out the other. There’s no way to really know what makes something pivotal to a person. Why do I love to write? Why do I like to wear makeup? Why do I love Rob? The answers are complicated, and to unravel the mystery is to take apart the very fabric of a person: their history, their society, and the places, people, and particulars that molded them.
Years ago, (when I was a teenager and probably while I was really, really high), I was tossing around my initial ideas about identity, and I came up with an analogy. We are gelatin in its liquid form. Some of us spill out of the sides, some of us spill onto the back of the mold, some of us stay in the bowl, etc. The one thing we have in common is that we’re affected by this process. And that process – the stirring and pouring, the heating and cooling, the appliances involved – represents society. It is necessary. It is real. It can’t help but affect us.*
I still enjoy over-analyzing. I still like to drag out the names of obscure philosophers to prove that I can do it. I still fantasize about getting high and letting my mind shoot off a million thoughts a minute. But these days, I much more enjoy the active parts of living.
We are all undoubtedly shaped by society. To what degree and in what ways? Who really gives a crap when you’re really comfortable and confident in your identity? It’s fun to ponder these questions, but what are you really questioning by posing these quandaries? The great, hidden, unknowable truth. And the validity of your personality.
Or so I believe.
But maybe I just think too much.
* Shut up. I was young and quite possibly (read: most likely) high as a kite. Also, I’m pretty sure my original analogy was different, but whatever. You get my point.